In a dramatic twist (get it?) World Rugby made the unprecedented announcement that they would be cancelling two final group games (Eng v France, NZ v Italy) and are monitoring the key game on Sunday (Scotland v Japan) due to Typhoon Hagibis descending on Tokyo .. a cancellation would materially impact the Springboks chances of advancing (as I will explain further).
This is an unmitigated disaster and threatens to ruin a to-date outstanding world cup. My initial reaction is how is there not a Plan B in place? The organisers would have known for a long time that the danger of a typhoon is a very real possibility – some would argue a probability – during typhoon season in East Asia. With that in mind surely a contingency plan would have been made for all games in the event that a scheduled fixture gets disrupted by the weather? This is not some exhibition event … its the Rugby World Cup for crying out loud!
I understand the safety of the players, fans, officials etc need to be accounted for. There is no dispute there. But why not provision for an indoor stadium (Kobe for example) to be used in the event that conditions are unplayable? The game would be played in an empty stadium – not ideal – but at least there would be some fairness to the competition.
With that rant out the way let’s take a look at how the cancellations and proposed cancellations affect the standings and what it means for the knockout stages.
Fortunately for the organisers, the first two cancellations arguably, and with no disrespect to France or Italy, make very little difference to the standings. NZ tops their group with the Boks second while England tops their group and France comes in second. England would have been heavy favourites to beat France anyway – the French might think otherwise and would have preferred to top their group making for an easier quarterfinal v Australia instead of Wales. Not much in that though.
HOWEVER … if the Japan v Scotland game gets called off, this would be a catastrophe for the tournament but not for South Africa. It would mean that Scotland get knocked out of the competition (assuming Ireland beats Samoa). Japan would move to 16 points by virtue of the two points gained for the 0-0 result, leaving Ireland with the task of scoring 4 tries against Samoa and picking up a bonus point to take them to 16. That would not be enough for Ireland though. Japan beat Ireland in their game so head to head gets priority meaning Japan would top their group and play South Africa in the quarters. Ireland would play the All Blacks.
** see rules at the bottom of the column
While you won’t be getting too many complaints from the Springboks, the Scots may have grounds for a lawsuit. This would be an extremely unfair way of being eliminated from a major tournament. In a twist of irony, the name of the typhoon Hagibis bears a remarkable resemblance to a favourite Scottish dish Haggis!
The All Blacks would not be pleased about this either as they would have to play their recent bogey team Ireland instead of Japan.
Spare a thought for the fans who have paid for travel, hotels, tickets (will be refunded) only to have their dreams shattered by a lack of forward thinking by the organisers! Imagine being a Scottish fan having travelled all that way only to prevented from watching his/her team play …and being knocked out of the competition at the same time!
If this was to materialise there would forever be an asterix placed next to this World Cup …
- The winner of the match between the two teams
- Difference between points scored for and points scored against in all pool matches
- Difference between tries scored for and tries scored against in all pool matches
- Points scored in all pool matches
- Most tries scored in all pool matches
- Official World Rugby Rankings as of 14 October 2019